Fri, Jan. 17

Letter: Cottonwood played major role in Apollo program


Fifty years ago this month, I was glued to my TV watching the first moon landing.

Most locals do not remember the contribution that Cottonwood made to this historical event.

Initially, some of NASA’s equipment testing, moon mapping and astronaut training was held in Flagstaff

Large areas of nearby Forest Service land was cleared of vegetation, and numerous craters were blasted in patterns similar to proposed landing on the moon.

Unfortunately, the weather in Flagstaff was not always suitable for year-round training, and another warmer winter site was needed. Several potential Arizona sites were investigated before settling on one near Cottonwood.

In the 1960s, Verde Village had not yet been developed. The new training ground was again Forest Service land near the junction of Hwy. 260 and Ogden Ranch Road, just to the Southeast of what is now Verde Village 1.

This site was also cleared of all plant-life, and an appropriate pattern of craters was blasted. Locals were warned before the craters were dynamited, and there were concerns, but all went well.

The site was used through 1972, prior to each of the moon landings. Many of the Apollo astronauts visited both Cottonwood and the moon. When the Apollo program ended, the site was abandoned.

The area is on a gentle South to North slope from the Black Hills, and the craters periodically collected water which stimulated new plant growth.

A local company was later hired to fill in the craters, and return the site to its original condition. Today, traces of craters can still be barely identified, largely by vegetation patterns.

I have long thought that it would be appropriate to have a roadside sign on Hwy. 260 to mark this historical location.

Donald E. Hahn Cottonwood

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